Manicures, DBS, and driving: My modern life with Parkinson’s
A columnist shares vignettes about life before and after deep brain stimulation
Many losses are associated with Parkinson’s disease, some more impactful than others. So far, because of deep brain stimulation (DBS), which I had in 2021, I’ve had more gains than losses in the past couple of years. It’s changed my life for the better in so many ways, but it is a bit … complicated.
I’ve never been one to wear much makeup. Working as a chef in a hot kitchen wasn’t exactly conducive to it. Once my Parkinson’s tremors started, putting on mascara without poking out an eye or applying lipstick without looking like a clown was impossible.
My one indulgence was my feet. They didn’t experience tremors as much as my hands, so I’d regularly go for pedicures. They were an easy and quick treat that perked up my spirits.
A few years before I had DBS, I was sitting in the pedicure chair one day feeling pretty good about life. My medications were working like a charm, and I wasn’t experiencing any tremors. I seized the moment: “Do you have time to do a manicure, too?” I asked. The answer, of course, was yes, and about 15 minutes later, I was sitting at the manicurist’s table.
And that’s exactly when my carbidopa/levodopa medication stopped working.
When the woman took my hand to paint my nails, my hand refused to cooperate. It flew about like a trapped bird. Nothing was going to calm it down. Three women who worked there quickly took charge of the situation, determined to give me a manicure.
“Watch the TV,” one yelled at me, as if the “Friends” episode had magical healing powers.
“Don’t be nervous!” shouted another.
Finally, two held my hands down while the other did my nails faster than a speeding bullet. My nails looked surprisingly great!
Deep brain stimulation to the rescue
Now that I’ve had DBS, I feel confident doing things that require a certain amount of stillness, and yes, I’ve had more manicures. Recently, however, I had the stimulation adjusted because it negatively affected my voice. So now I sound almost normal, but my feet tremble. Usually, this doesn’t bother me — until I get in the driver’s seat.
One of the first cars I learned to drive was my husband’s Volkswagen Rabbit. It had a stick shift, and I managed to bunny-hop my way around town. If you’ve ever had a similar experience, you know what driving with me feels like. I get a bit seasick now as my foot pulses up and down on the accelerator. It makes me nervous and aware that I might have to stop driving in the not-too-distant future.
I told all of this to my husband, who showed me the wonders of cruise control. Because these foot tremors are worse on long, open-country roads (city driving has enough stopping and starting to keep my feet busy), cruise control has saved the day. No loss of independence for me this week!
I’ll see you later. I’ve got an appointment for a manicure!
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.